When the days are shorter, greyer, and the cold has set in, it is much more challenging to get out of a warm, cosy bed and motivate yourself to exercise. Consider Hot Yoga to keep you active, fi t and happy during the chilly winter months.
Exercise is not just for summer and the cold is no excuse to stop caring for your body. So, as it is important to keep our bodies moving all year round, when it comes to the midst of winter, I find it more enticing to stretch my body in a 40 °C heated room than to head out into the open elements and face a cold run in the rain!
A GROWING TREND
Hot Yoga is extremely popular. With celebrities, athletes, royals and regular people – like you and me – engaging in this wellness trend, there seems to be even more Hot Yoga studios and studios offering heated yoga options. I was reminded of this when I was in freezing London earlier this year and searching for a yoga studio to visit in my area. After much research, I found the closest four out of five studios to me were Hot Yoga studios. After a half-hour walk with snowflakes falling around me, I must admit I really enjoyed entering that warm studio and participating in that hot session.
Not only do heated classes provide the warmth that we crave in the chilly months, but experiencing these sessions is also a wonderful way to combat the blues and stay fi t, healthy and flexible during winter.
You will sleep better, feel happier, and enjoy a more energetic and toned body when practising Hot Yoga in winter. After a continued regular practice, you will also have overall improved mental and physical health.
BIKRAM YOGA VS HOT YOGA
If this all sounds good to you and you would like to try it out, you may be wondering what the difference is between a Bikram class and Hot Power Yoga class? Unlike Bikram, Hot Yoga isn’t based on the same 26-posture series. Instead, it tends to be more of a flowing Vinyasa-style practice, which is different every time, combining yoga poses with fitness-style exercises and linking one pose to the next. However, in both Bikram and Hot Yoga, the heated rooms help promote sweating and warm up the body to increase flexibility.
SEVEN BENEFITS OF HOT YOGA IN WINTER
- Cleansing and detoxifying the body – Exercising and sweating in a room of 40 °C heat certainly aids the body’s natural detoxification process. The more you sweat, the more you twist, the more you breathe, the more you release toxins.
- Increasing flexibility – During winter, our muscles can feel tight and restricted from being cold and less active. Stretching in a heated room helps your muscles warm up and stay limber through the cooler months.
- Improving circulation – Getting your blood pumping to your extremities relieves issues with circulation.
- Eases stiff joints – A combination of the heat and certain yoga postures eases stiff joints and chronic pain such as arthritis, joint aches, knee and back injuries.
- Assisting weight loss – Yoga increases heart rate, boosts the metabolism, improves digestion and stabilises your appetite. If weight loss is one of your fitness goals then Hot Yoga provides an all-year-round workout to prevent weight gain.
- Immune booster – The raised temperature in the room, plus certain postures, assists in stimulating the thymus gland, which improves the proper functioning of your immune system.
- Reduces stress and elevates your mood – With less sun, shorter days and icy cold weather, winter blues can set in and get us down emotionally. Hot Yoga not only warms up your body but also your heart and opens your mind, increasing your mental and emotional health. It also promotes mental concentration and strength due to the intensity of the heat.
PRACTISE HOT YOGA WITH CAUTION
However, Hot Yoga is not for everyone. Believe me – they are not kidding about the heat! It is a challenging, intense, full-body workout and is not for the fainthearted, or, in my opinion, beginner yogis.
In a blog written in 2016 for the New York Times, Dr Casey Mace, an assistant professor of public health at Central Washington University, who also studied Hot Yoga, says, ‘Hot Yoga may be more physically rigorous than regular yoga, making practitioners susceptible to dehydration and muscle injuries. People may assume the warnings and benefits and possible risks are the same for all types of yoga, and that’s simply not true.’ Her research found Hot Yoga practitioners reported benefits like greater flexibility and improvements in mood, fitness and stamina, but that over half had experienced dizziness, light-headedness, nausea or dehydration.
‘There may be a misconception that these feelings are normal, but they’re not,’ she said. ‘If people are feeling dizzy or have headaches or feel weak or fatigued, it may be related to fluid loss. They should take a break, cool down and get hydrated. Proper hydration is key.’
Still, Dr Mace said, ‘Hot Yoga is generally safe, and the side effects we are seeing are generally mild,’ although, as with any kind of yoga, the practice does have risks.
I know that for me, as an Ayurvedic Pitta Dosha, I need to be extra careful of overheating and so I often don’t practise Hot Yoga during the hot summer months and choose to do cooler outdoor yoga instead. I only venture into the Hot Yoga studio during winter.
HOT YOGA CHECKLIST
Knowing yourself and listening to your body is paramount in any yoga session; however there are a few extra tips to take into consideration if you have never done a Hot Yoga class before.
Here is a checklist and a few precautions to take if thinking of joining a class:
- Consult your doctor – If you have any injuries or health concerns, such as cardiovascular or respiratory disease, a history of heart-related illness, or are pregnant, make sure to get your doctor’s OK before practising Hot Yoga.
- Stay well-hydrated – Make sure you are drinking up to two litres of water during the day to stay hydrated. During Hot Yoga most of what you are sweating is water but you also lose a lot of minerals, including potassium, sodium and other electrolytes. It is important to replace electrolytes lost during the practice. I personally have a Nuun Active effervescent after each heated yoga session, which elevates my hydration, replenishes my electrolytes and supports my active lifestyle.
- No eating before class – Don’t eat any big meal for up to two hours before your class. If you suffer from low blood pressure then eat sodium-rich fruit like a banana an hour before for a pre-class energy boost.
- Don’t over-stretch – Remember that yoga is another form of exercise and you can still injure yourself. The heat allows you to stretch more, so don’t push yourself into a posture that feels too intense. Listen to your body and ease into the postures.
- Breathe – Taking deep breaths brings your heart rate down, calms your mind, and regulates your body temperature. If you have stopped breathing, you have gone too far into the pose.
- Listen to your body and stay safe – If you feel dizzy or nauseous, listen to your body, take a break, relax and breathe, and if necessary go outside the heated room to cool down and recover properly.
- Cool down properly – When practising Hot Yoga in the winter, make sure not to rush out of the studio quickly after a practice. This will shock your system, tighten muscles and reduce circulation, which will put you at a greater risk for muscle injuries. Wait five to 10 minutes before going outside, and wrap up warmly when you do.
One of the best things about doing Hot Yoga in winter, or anytime of the year for that matter, is the community. There is a great camaraderie that is built between yogis who sweat together. And no, it doesn’t sound pretty, but the endorphins, music, people and Hot Yoga-high you feel during and after the session are enough to keep you motivated and glowing until you next step into the warm open arms of your Hot Yoga studio and the community that goes with it.
Get out of hibernation mode and go and try a Hot Yoga studio near you!
Hot Yoga studios Cape Town:
- The Yoga Life – www.theyogalife.co.za
- Yoga Zone – www.yogazone.co.za
- Yoga Spirit – www.yogaspirit.co.za
- Yo Yoga – www.yoyoga.co.za
- Yoga Experience – www.bikramyoga.co.za
- The Yoga Republic – www.theyogarepublic.co.za
- Hotpod Yoga (Pretoria) – www.hotpodyoga.com/za
- Tree Natural Concept – www.treenatural.co.za
- Gurucat – www.gurucat.co.za